I recently completed a 37,000-mile pilgrimage around the world, a modern re-working of an ancient tradition. I met monks, danced with rabbis, walked on coals, and even gained an audience with Pope Francis. After traveling to North Korea, Westboro Baptist Church, Mount Athos, and the Camino de Santiago, I sat down to write the adventure. As we neared the release date, I turned my attention to planning a great book launch party. Problem was, none of my close friends had ever actually been to a book launch party before.
So we made it up as we went along.
This guest post is by writer Jared Brock.
You can watch the trailer for his book and also download the first 2 chapters for free at LivingPrayerfully.com.
Looking back on that whirlwind evening, here are a list of 10 ingredients necessary to pull off a spectacular book launch party.
A Year of Living Prayerfully is a travel memoir - I went to 12 countries in all - so we went with a travel theme. We wanted a venue that fit the bill, so we chose a 1960s German cultural club. It looked like an expat lounge or an old supper club, with big red curtains and lots of dimmer lights. Perfect for the theme.
Don’t settle for balloons and glitter - get creative. We stuck little flags on the desserts. We ordered life-sized cutouts where people could pop their heads through and pretend to be Orthodox monks, Catholic priests, Quaker ministers, Jewish rabbis, or intrepid travelers. We brought in old suitcases, spinning globes, and earth-patterned balloons. Plus, you can never have too many candles or white Christmas lights. And don’t forget that the audience is also a vital part of the “set decoration.” We asked our invitees to dress up travel-themed. We had a girl on African safari. A French street artist. European backpackers. A cowboy. A Zulu princess. Someone came as Santa Claus. Two people came as life-sized passports.
“Fail to plan, plan to fail,” as they say. We had a schedule, a budget, and a list of who was in charge of what. In hindsight, we could have used even more time for setup. I can only imagine that, without a plan, the night would have been a disaster.
You can’t do it yourself - you’re going to need to enlist a small army to pull off a great party. Start with your family and those who love you most. My wife led the decorating team, with my sister as her right-hand gal. My brother took care of tables, chairs, and DJing. My mother did the food, along with a friend from our small group. My dad took payments at the door. Various friends led games, made introductions, and worked the coat-check. One of my friends was the emcee, and her husband was the official greeter and ticket taker.
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Rather than host a boring launch party where I read a book that everyone’s going to go home and read anyway, we decided to lace the night with games. We had a best-dressed catwalk. We had a balloon stomp competition. There was a trivia match. We played the “You Can’t Say That”
necklace game throughout the night. As a way of mixing the crowd, everyone was given a passport when the entered - they had to meet strangers in order to get stamps, which would make them eligible for prizes. Which brings us to ...
In addition to door prizes and game awards, we also had a photography contest where people could take a photo and post it online with #LivingPrayerfully, and the winner received dinner and a 1-night stay for 2 at a retreat center. The best-dressed award went to a couple who actually dressed up as me and my wife.
Our DJ played travel-themed songs all night, including Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around.” Later in the evening, our church’s worship band led a rocking concert, pairs with prayer stations and communion.
People love food. I was too busy running around to actually eat anything, but I’m told that the food was amazing. In addition to coffee, tea, and punch, we had cookies, squares, fruit, tarts, and even salted caramel mini-cheesecakes. Yum.
Maybe it’s just personal taste, but I don’t like reading out loud. It’s hard to quickly create context for the chosen passages, and you don’t want to bore people by making them sit for a long time. So rather than holding a lengthy reading, I chose 3 small pieces and read them in between specially-chosen songs that the band played.
10. Family, Friends, and Fans
Your community is easily the most important part of your book launch party. I personally invited over 300 people. About half could make it. It was wonderful to see everyone - like a big reunion of friends and family.
Remember: a book launch party isn’t about making money or trying to impress anyone. At the end of the day, a book launch party isn’t even about you, at all. It’s about your readers, and your message - it’s about celebrating an immense achievement with those you love, and planting the seed of your book’s story, in hopes that it will eventually spread around the world. That’s my hope for A Year of Living Prayerfully, anyway.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.
- What to write in the BIO section of your query letter.
- Here are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you awesome.
- New Agent Alerts: Click here to find agents who are currently seeking writers.
- Download a year's worth of writing prompts right here.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.